Difference Between Lemons and Meyer Lemons


Kitchen Knowledge Lifestyle | Published January 10, 2024 by Mimi Council

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Lemons and Meyer lemons, both citrus fruits, share similarities yet possess distinct characteristics that set them apart in the culinary world. These bright yellow fruits, which are part of the Rutaceae family, contribute vibrant acidity and citrusy brightness to so many dishes! So, what is the difference between lemons and Meyer lemons?

While we are in the middle of citrus season, you may have started seeing Meyer lemons at your local farmer’s market or even at the grocery store. You may have bought some, thinking they were just regular lemons, but realized they have a distinct and different flavor. So, let’s dive into the difference between lemons and Meyer lemons so you can feel confident shopping, cooking, and baking with these beautiful citrus fruits!

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What is the difference between lemons and Meyer lemons?

Traditional lemons are often referred to as Eureka or Lisbon lemons. They embody a classic tart citrus flavor profile. These lemons are characterized by their bright yellow hue, slightly rough-textured peel, and a signature tartness that comes from the presence of citric acid.

Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange, so they offer a sweeter and less acidic alternative to traditional lemons. Named after Frank Meyer, who first introduced them to the United States in the early 20th century, Meyer lemons have gained popularity for their unique flavor profile and thin, smooth, deep yellow to orange skin.

So, the main difference is their skin color, texture, and of course taste. Traditional lemons are more bright yellow in color, with a rougher skin, and tart citrus flavor. Meyer lemons are a cross between a traditional lemon and a mandarin or orange, so therefore they have a sweeter flavor as both oranges and mandarins are sweet. They also have a darker yellow color from being married with an orange.

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Lemon Flavor Profile

Lemons boast a distinct and vibrant flavor profile that is characterized by a combination of tartness, citrusy brightness, and a subtle underlying sweetness. The primary taste associated with lemons is their sharp acidity, which gives them their signature tang. This acidity is a result of the presence of citric acid, a natural component found in citrus fruits.

Meyer Lemon Flavor Profile

The sweetness of Meyer lemons is a standout feature, making them noticeably less tart than regular lemons. Meyer lemons are prized for their sweeter taste, reduced acidity, and aromatic qualities. Their flavor profile offers a delightful alternative to traditional lemons, bringing a subtle and sophisticated citrusy essence to sweet and savory dishes alike.

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Can I use lemons and Meyer lemons interchangeably in recipes?

Yes and no. While using a lemon or Meyer lemon in a recipe will work as they are both a citrus fruit, they will ultimately create a different flavor profile for the recipe. So, if you are following a recipe that calls specifically for one or the other, I would advise using what the recipe calls for so your flavor profile is accurate. But, if you only have one on hand and a recipe calls for the other, then it’s really no big deal to use them interchangeably. The difference you will see is that using a traditional lemon will give you a tarter citrus flavor, while using a Meyer lemon will provide a sweeter and softer flavor.

What kind of recipes are best for traditional lemons?

Traditional lemons, with their zesty and tart flavor, will elevate a variety of dishes with their bright citrusy essence. I don’t believe there are certain recipes that are best for traditional lemons or you can only use traditional lemons. But there are many traditional dishes where the tart and zesty flavor of lemons is the star. When you are looking for a bold, tangy, and bright kick of lemon flavor, then that’s when you want to use traditional lemons. Try my Lemon Olive Oil Snack Cake, Baked Feta Broccoli Pasta with Lemon, or Strawberry Lemonade Sandwich Cookies when you have fresh lemons!

What kind of recipes are best for Meyer lemons?

Meyer lemons are celebrated for their unique sweet and floral notes. If you are going for a sweeter and softer lemon flavor, without a lot of tang, then Meyer lemons are the way to go! I don’t believe that there are specific recipes where you can only use Meyer lemons, but they make so many dishes drool worthy with their sweet and light lemon flavor! Try my recipe for Meyer Lemon Pound Cake, Meyer Lemon Chicken & Wild Rice Soup, or Meyer Lemon Pancakes when you have these sweet lemons on hand.

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The Takeaway

While both lemons and Meyer lemons belong to the citrus family and share a connection through their bright acidity, they differ when it comes to flavor profiles. Lemons, with their classic tartness, are a kitchen staple for various recipes, from sweet to savory. Meyer lemons, with their sweeter and more fragrant nature, offer a unique twist that enhances the delicate nuances of desserts and drinks.

Understanding the distinct qualities of these citrus fruits will allow you to choose the perfect citrus companion for your recipe or your preference. Whether you're aiming for a bold zing or a subtle sweetness, lemons and Meyer lemons will elevate your dishes with their bright citrus flavor!

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